Banks to vote on increased local option levy for fire services
The Banks Fire District is hoping local taxpayers will be willing to cough up a bit more money to keep up with rising service costs and increasing demand firefighters are facing.
On the ballot in this May's election will be a five-year local option replacement levy which proposes raising the current local option levy of $0.62 per $1,000 of assessed value to up to $0.97 per $1,000 of assessed value — an increase which could cause resident's property taxes to increase by more than three percent.
A property with an assessed value of $200,000 — about the average assessed value of residential property in the district — would pay about $194 a year, or $16 per month.
Voters in banks approved a local option levy in 2005, and renewed in 2010 and 2015, but Banks Fire Chief Rodney Linz said the increase is necessary moving into the future.
"We need a slight increase to keep up with the costs," he said.
The price of equipment and other fire fighting necessities has risen dramatically since voters approved the local option levy 14 years ago, Linz said.
"From 2005 until 2017 … our tax revenues only increased 3.4 percent (per year), but our personal costs have gone up 10.9 percent, our materials and services cost has gone up 5.5 percent," he said. "Our call volume in 2005 was 473, (in) 2017 it was 773. So we have seen (an) increase since 2005 of 63 percent. Apparatus costs have gone up 164 percent (in 14 years). Those are some of the increases we are seeing in that (nearly) 15-year time period."
If passed, the replacement levy would go into effect in 2020 and be in place until 2025. Linz said he hopes to get a number of renewals out of it without having to ask voters to increase the levy every five years.
"The main benefit (of the levy increase) is to maintain services," Linz said. "As the costs go up, even though as we try to be good stewards of fire district funds from the community, when we have huge increases with gear, costs of operating, we have to maintain service."
The Banks Fire District provides fire and medical services in 136 square miles, covering the communities of Banks, Buxton, Manning, Timber and surrounding areas.
"We feel the community is getting a very fair value for the services today and we just want to maintain those services and be proactive," Linz said. "We don't want to get in a situation where we have to cut back services because of a funding issue."
The replacement levy would also help to keep the main station staffed 24-hours-a-day, Linz said, by increasing funds to pay for interns enrolled in firefighter, paramedic or EMT college courses. Linz said that would shorten response times and ensure the number of firefighters responding to calls is maintained. It would also help pay for fire prevention and life safety education, CPR classes and smoke detector installation, according to the request submitted to the county.
The estimated revenue for each year of the levy ranges from $522,794 to $588,409 for a total of $2.7 million.
The City of Cornelius and the rural fire districts of Cornelius and Gaston are all looking to renew their local option levies for fire services in this spring's election.
By Olivia Singer
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
Follow Olivia at @oliviasingerr
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